Monday, 26 September 2011

Starting Week 3 ahead of George, Stephen and Dave

Looks like the week is starting without a post on the site (unless I'm looking in the wrong spot?). Got my regular email about postings about #change11 creations in our developing network but didn't get an introduction to this week's facilitator so I went looking for him/her myself.
Found The Ed Techie and Martin's going to deal with all kinds of stuff that I've been thinking about for a while. I've often thought about what "free" or "open" really means. From Stephen's 'rip, mix, feed' view of the open content on the net to the more structured and limiting view embedded in Creative commons licenses, what does it all really mean for those of us who teach in higher learning.
I love the potential power of customizability of open content but how many of us will go through the time it takes to sift the debris to find the gems? Most of us still believe it is more efficient to create out own. We miss out on some really interesting perspectives and potential influences.
Anyway, I'm off to start browsing the open version of our faciliator's book:  The Digital Scholar. Three cheers for openness!

Friday, 23 September 2011

What is it good for? Mobile devices for learning

I've been looking forward to this week cuz we have been exploring the use of mobile devices at our college. We have a small (but growing) group of instructors who have iPads and are exploring how they can be used in the classroom or during faculty meetings. We also have an exciting project in our library where the staff are exploring the use of Asus Transformers (tablets) for posting and sharing information with students. But I have still felt somewhat lost as to the best way mobile devices could be used to enhance learning.
 In their paper for ASEAN Journal of Open & Distance Learning, (Mobile Learning Initiative through SMS) Abas,  Lim and Woo shared some of the advantages of mobile devices and the response of students to their use in Open University Malaysia.

The advantages of mobile devices that they cited are similar to those in many parts of North America. In fact they seem very close to what we heard from an online webinar hosted by Educause that discussed the experience at most American universities. A near 100% penetration rate is not what we see in the North though, although it may be close. Just walking through the halls this term I see students constantly texting or peering intently into their phones. But I wonder what an instructor would do who wanted to try mobile learning if some or a few of their students didn't have cell phones or some form of mobile connectivity? Do those students have to remember to check a computer every day? Or do you just select a specific day for SMSing? and hope they can share with another student to view the texts? If a teaching approach benefits or reaches most of your students, is that good enough?

The successful project at the University of Pretoria found that SMS use increased the retention rate because learners felt someone cared. I wonder if anyone asked students if they just felt annoyed by the SMSs?  Sometimes our research is biased so strongly towards looking for what we expect. I'll have to do some more reading.

What else stood out for me? OMG!  OUM has an average enrollment of 30-40,000 learners per term. More than the population of the Yukon!!

But what really impressed me is the thoughtful, organized approach that was documented in the article.
Approach by OUM
  • pick a course to try SMS (Learning Skills for Open & Distance Learning)
  • plan what kinds of SMSs and how often sent
  • forum msgs intended to stimulate discussion in online forums in LMS
  • content msgs highlighted important parts of text
  • tips msgs included how to study, how to understand specific concepts
  • motivation msgs were about how to succeed, encourage them to perservere
  • course mgmt msgs dealt with admin issues
If I can get a partnership going with one of our teachers to try this approach in the future, I doubt I'll be quite as organized by I like the idea of organizing by intent and content.
Now...time to dive into the comment, tweeting, bookmarking part of my nascent network. (Backchannel:  where do people find the time for this. Just reading one of the posted articles has taken me until Friday cuz I've been so busy with work and life.)

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    My virtual ears are already ringing...

    I reviewed all the good advice provided by our newsletter, and posted by other MOOCrs and I got partway. But then my monitoring devices started to twang; my Diigo group posted some interesting stuff, the RSS feed pages in the blog started displaying some thought-provoking statements, my Google search and Youtube search started yielding some videos I put aside to watch when I had time. I'm already finding that I'm getting scattered.

    Hopefully today I can do what George suggested:  FOCUS!

    One path to explore:  conversations around George's posting Who are MOOCs for? Confused personal thoughts
    (backchannel thoughts - so, now should I comment on George's blog post? Should I comment on the comments on George's blog post? Should I follow the links in some of the comments and comment on their blog posts/comments? I'm not used to commenting on other people's posts - do I link back to my blogpost about their blog posts? Seems very iterative (or dog-chasing-tail) rather than enlightening.)
    George poses the question in his blog title, changes it in his first sentence and then talks around it (seems to me). "Who are MOOCs for"(title) seemed self-evident to me. I always thought MOOCs were for Stephen and George so they could test their theories around connectivism and connected learning. I joined previous MOOCs because I saw them as a group exploration of some interesting ideas of how teaching could be envigorated and learning could be collaborative and potentially exciting and lifelong.
    "who participates in open online courses.." (question) to me changes the focus of what I thought George was asking. He goes on to talk about people from other countries or people who don't have the same technological and other supports as many of us do. So his hope is that MOOCs can benefit those with fewer "privileges" or "supports".
    I also think we need to think about participants in non-geographic or non-economic ways. Perhaps we should look at what level of knowledge people enter with and what they leave with. If you are teaching a course that has specific outcomes that require that a certain body of knowledge and conceptual understanding have to be gained by participants before they can move on to other related topics or jobs or whatever then the MOOC model seems too slow, too unwieldy, too potentially divisive or confusing for participants.
    Even for motivated, mostly highly educated participants, the first week of a MOOC is spent in orientation. And it would be interesting to have had a chance to do exit interviews with people who drop out so we could discover whether the tasks of knowledge management within this model become too onerous for some.
    I read some of the related blog posts about George's question. AK, who seems like a highly educated and thoughtful fellow, Where does a MOOC begin life?  responded with some good questions about how you can develop a course this extensive without having some thoughts about who your learners will be. It made me think about how I approach new course development. Do I think about what I'd like to teach? Yes. Do I try to envision who my students will be and how they will benefit from taking my course? Yes. Do I think about holes in what my educational institution offers that I could fill - benefiting the institution, students and me?  Yes. Do I think of a course as an environment in which I can test new approaches to teaching, new learning activities, new ways to engage my students? Yes.
    So, I think that George had other reasons for developing MOOCs. And I guess where I've ended up is that I'm still not sure that the MOOC isn't just another way of offering learning opportunities to new audiences. It's not the only way; it won't meet the needs of all potential learners who could benefit from the topics that will be explored in the coming weeks. But it's flexibility, adaptability and openness are still relatively unique characteristics in higher education and are worth some focused exploration.

    Tuesday, 13 September 2011

    Thanks George for sharing your process

    It's my day to work at home so I'm going to dive into all the reading, viewing and sharing that George and Stephen have posted.

    I'm developing a map of my plan for network formation based on George's tips for how to learn in a MOOC - I'll post it when it's fleshed out a bit more. Creately  is a pretty-good online drawing tool but I'm not sure how far I can push my free account so I'm experimenting with embedding graphics to make the map more interesting.

    Step 1:  What is my success? 
    Mmmmmm.... last couple of MOOCs I tried, I got overwhelmed. Got behind on reading, lost track of who to follow and where to find them, started in one direction, got absorbed, followed another thread to another node, changed direction several times cuz something else sparked my interest, got hopelessly lost and didn't accomplish anything. As to George's exhortation to Create and Share or to Fix What's Missing (steps 6 and 7), the closest I came was to post on my blogs. Never made a video, never uploaded an audio recording or a creative graphic or photograph.

    I will consider myself successful if:
    • I develop a broader, more diverse, interesting personal learning network
    • I participate in my PLN more consistently
    • I learn to share my learning in more visual ways
    • I find a way to make my learning meaningful to my teaching
    Now to dive into the flow...

      Tuesday, 6 September 2011

      changemooc is starting next week!

      I'm still browsing the postings from the previous eduMOOC2011 that Ray of the University of Illinois at Springfield coordinated. But I took a moment to poke at the course web site at and browse through the weekly presenters. Some interesting people have stepped forward to lead each week - I'm looking forward to it!

      The first guest facilitator is Zoraini Wati Abas who works at the Faculty of Education & Languages, Malaysia Open University. I checked out her blog Eye on Learning and she's posted some older material about MOOCs -  a video of an interview of George Siemens by Howard Rheingold that describes the origin of the MOOC format(?) and two videos she created about MOOCs during her participation in the eduMOOC2011.

      Stephen has just posted a history of MOOCs, part of his keynote presentation (MOOC: the Massive Open Online Course in Theory and Practice) to IV Innovar para Transcendar Simposio de la COMINAIC, Guadalajara, Mexico. 

      I'm curious what areas each weekly facilitator will focus on - nothing on the course web site yet.